This delightful vase with its stylish array of stems and grasses is fairly typical of the kind of jar of specimens which often lurks on the kitchen windowsill. Do not be deceived by this elegant arrangement by the Head Gardener, there is rather more to this than meets the eye. The arrangement features marram grass (Ammophila arenaria), common reed (Phragmites australis) and with stems of rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium). In more skilled hands there is the potential for a pretty miniature arrangement, however the purpose of this display is not to delight the eye or the senses, but to stimulate the intellect.
The key to this collection of specimens is not what you can see, but what is hidden – micro fungi. As gardeners you will have noticed all kinds of blotches and bumps on leaves and stems and these are usually caused by fungi. Some of these, particularly the rust, smuts and powdery mildews, can have serious effects on the health of the plant, particularly in agricultural monocultures. However, most wild plants seem to tolerate their microfungal guests.
Biologically micro fungi are fascinating, often with alternating generations for asexual and sexual reproduction which may involve different species of host plants. Some are very host specific, using single species, others will spread their favours within a plant family or beyond. An evolutionary tour de force.
Superficially, when you can see them with the naked eye or under a hand lens, they are unremarkable, but under the microscope they can be stunning, even if you don’t really understand what you are looking at! If you want to have a peep at what grows on marram grass look here.
Normally biological specimens are confined to the study, but somehow these seem to have escaped. The coprophiles are, however, kept in strict quarantine until consigned to the compost heap, but that’s another story.
Cathy, the instigator of In a Vase Monday
meme, is always encouraging me to think “outside the box” as I often struggle to find flowers to
plonk in a vase arrange, I hope you all enjoy the Head Gardener’s contribution,